One step at a time, as SA sport makes a return

Jordan Chait arrives for training with the Sharks rugby team in Durban this week. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Following a recent decision by government to give sport codes the green light for a return to play across the board, some national federations have made significant progress, but the process has been more challenging for others.

While some sports have already resumed and others have announced an imminent return, various codes face a longer wait before elite competition makes a comeback.

Cricket was the first local sport to make a comeback at top-flight level with a one-off 3TCricket match in Centurion last month, following the announcement by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa in June that non-contact codes could resume.

Subsequently, contact codes were also given a provisional green light last week, opening the door for all sport to proceed with their plans for a return to play.

According to a submission by Mthethwa in the government gazette, sports matches and events could resume “in compliance with measures to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19”.

Domestic football had since returned behind closed doors, with the season being relaunched at the weekend.

A goal post being sanitised during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Dobsonville Stadium on Tuesday. Picture: Gallo Images/Backpagepix

The hosting of international events remained uncertain, with borders still closed, but most other sports were also pushing ahead in an attempt to resume on-field domestic action before the end of the year.

Rugby was expected to make a comeback in mid-September (though players would have to wait another week before returning to contact training, according to a Sport24 report), while golf announced last week that the Sunshine Tour’s new Rise Up Series would start on August 19.

Meanwhile, tennis courts were reopened last month, and top-flight domestic competition was due to resume later this month.

“Tournaments are currently set to resume in the week commencing on
August 22,” confirmed Tennis SA head of commercial, communications and stakeholder management Anthony Moruthane.

Elsewhere, Swimmers were due to be allowed back in the pool next month.

“We are hoping to hold the SA Junior and Senior Short Course Championships at the end of September,” said Swimming SA president Jace Naidoo.

“We’re not entirely sure of the numbers at the moment because we need at least 20 officials for an event, but if we can’t host a national championship we’ll still have smaller events across the country to
give the swimmers some racing opportunities.”

Netball SA (NSA) had not expected a return to action under level three of the national lockdown regulations, with government initially stating that contact codes would not be allowed to return until level one was reached.

Following the clearance last week, however, the federation was eager to resume elite competitions within the next couple of months.

“We have to apply and submit our operational plans with dates of resumption,” said NSA director of demarcation and structures Mami

“The closing date (for applications to government) is August 20 and we plan to start play in October.”

In hockey, there were no firm plans in place, but the national federation said it was also assessing the situation following the announcement.

“We do not have a final position as yet on the return of domestic hockey,” said SA Hockey Association chief executive Marissa Langeni.

“We are still applying our minds to the gazette.”

Cycling SA (CSA), meanwhile, warned its members that strict protocols needed to be followed in order to hold events, with no more than 50 people allowed to gather in any particular area, among various other restrictions.

“The regulations are very clear in terms of the disaster management risk mitigation requirements and the latest gazette has emphasised the limitations which remain in place,” CSA said in a statement.

Finally, on the track, Athletics South Africa had opted out of a potential return to action in June, for health and safety reasons.

As was the case with cycling, most road races around the country were cancelled, while other athletics disciplines also remained on hold.

The federation had not yet announced an expected date for the sport to resume.

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